God’s providence while universal, constant, and sovereign in its nature is both sweet and amazing every time I recognize it. This is a story of God’s providence.
Providence in Walking the Dog
I have a few different routes around the neighborhood that I use when taking the dog for a walk. One of these routes takes me past a particular house—a cute little house (it seemed to have a woman’s touch). The condition of the yard took away from the house’s charm. This time of year, many yards, including my own, are buried in leaves. But this particular yard seemed to be crying for help.
Prior to a couple days ago, I had no idea who lived in the house. However, each time I walked by, shuffled my feet through the leaves covering the sidewalk, and looked at the house I thought, “I wonder if the person who lives here needs some help.”
I got tired of asking.
I decided to clean the resident’s front yard.
Later that afternoon, armed with just a rake and dustpan, I headed back to the house. Moments after I started raking the first pile of leaves, the single-car garage door opened.
Providence in Meeting Carol
A young lady sheepishly stepped out of the dark garage into the light. “Hello?”
We’ll call her Carol.
“Hi. My name is Tony. I don’t want to sell you anything and I don’t want anything from you. I walk my dog by your house just about every day. I noticed your yard and I thought I could help.”
Carol began to cry. “I thought you were mad at me,” she said.
Now, why would she think that? I’ve seen the movie “Grumpy Old Men.” I wasn’t acting like either one of those guys (at least not that day). I wasn’t grumbling and mumbling under my breath as I raked the leaves. Why would she think I was mad at her?
I never asked the “why” question, but an idea did come to mind. Maybe one of her neighbors complained to her about her yard. After all, these days people (even in the Midwest, if you can imagine that) are more likely to complain about what they perceive to be a problem rather than help to fix it. Or maybe she just assumed that the only reason someone, a complete stranger, would rake her leaves was because he was tired of seeing them.
“Oh, no! Not at all! I’m a Christian,” I explained. “The Bible tells me that I am supposed to love God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself (Matthew 22:34-40). The reason I am here is to love you, as my neighbor.
“Again, I walk by every day. And something just told me maybe whoever lives here could use some help. I had no idea who lived here. I’ve never seen you before. I’m not here to pass judgment on you. I just want to help,” I said.
Loss of a Friend
Carol was now weeping uncontrollably–too much so for it to be over a 60-year-old guy with a rake, in her front lawn. It seemed there was more going on here.
“You seem very upset about something,” I said.
“I lost someone close to me,” she explained.
“I’m so sorry. I don’t mean to pry, but may I ask who?”
“It was my best friend. He was 12. I raised him from a baby,” she said.
“Are you talking about a pet?” I asked.
“Yes, my chinchilla.”
Check Yourself if You Laughed
There are different theological points of view regarding pets, ranging from “People shouldn’t have pets” to “What’s the big deal?”
Animals are mentioned throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. More often than not they are mentioned in the context of food, sacrifices, livelihood, and commerce. The only mention of a pet in the Bible is in the parable the prophet Nathan communicated to David to call him to account for his various sins with Bathsheba.
“And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, ‘There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him'” (2 Samuel 12:1-3).
For the purpose of full disclosure, there is a small dog named “Roxy” curled up next to me on the couch, as I write this.
Pets are Not Family Members
Pets are not people. Pets should not be personified. They do not have souls. Contrary to the view of a few theologians, Fido and Fifi don’t go to heaven when they die. This is what differentiates them from humans. Animals die and become dust. People die and likewise become dust, but then they stand before God to give an account for their lives (Hebrews 9:27). Animals will not stand in judgment. Animals will not go to hell or go to heaven.
“For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth” (Ecclesiastes 3:19-22).
And, at the risk of offending some of you even more, pets are not members of the family. The family minivan is not a member of the family. The minivan is something the entire family uses. The family room is not a member of the family. It is a place where the entire family gathers. And the family pet is not a member of the family. It is an animal from which the entire family derives various kinds of enjoyment.
Pets are property. However, as living creatures they should garner a higher level of care and stewardship than, say, your toaster. You can’t be cruel to a toaster, but you can (and shouldn’t) be cruel to a cat or dog or your beast of burden.
“Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel” (Proverbs 12:10).
Animals serve several purposes, including bringing pleasure to mankind. As such, animals should be properly stewarded.
“Animal cruelty should not take place if men truly understand the command to be “caretakers” of the earth. We are to control the numbers of animals so disease and sickness do not kill them off; we are to use the animals for our needs; we are to control animals in a manner in which they are not harmful to humans; and finally we should protect them from over-killing and abuse. The problem lies in the fact that many do not understand this balance and tend to over-protect or under-protect animals. Animals were created for us to enjoy, so protecting a remnant for others to enjoy is also proper.”
If You Laughed
When I mentioned Carol was mourning the loss of a chinchilla, did you laugh?
You shouldn’t have done that.
Look, I get it. I mean, just the word “chinchilla” can bring about a giggle. And maybe that’s the only reason you laughed. A picture of a cute, furry, little chinchilla came to mind and you couldn’t help but smile. (Note to men: no man-card revocations today for giggling at chinchillas.)
But what if that wasn’t why you laughed?
Did you laugh at the idea of a young woman making a 9″-14″, under two-pound fur ball her best friend?
Then check yourself.
When you read that Carol’s best friend was a chinchilla, what you should have thought, what you should have felt was compassion. You should have extended compassion to a likely-lost young woman (I have not yet talked to Carol regarding her personal, spiritual beliefs) who is living alone and who is apparently so lonely, so bereft of human relationships, that she has personified a chinchilla to the point of making it her best friend.
Repent if you laughed at Carol instead of grieving for her–not because her pet died, but because she is so alone.
Joyfully Biting Off a Bit More Than I Probably Should Have Chewed
I asked Carol if the backyard was in similar condition to the front yard. She said it was.
“Well, I’m going to clean-up your entire yard,” I explained.
“Oh, no! You don’t have to do that,” she kindly protested.
“Carol, I’m not going to do it because I have to. I’m going to do it because I want to and because I love you as my neighbor,” I reiterated.
“What kind of support system do you have?” I asked. “I mean, do you have family nearby?”
“I have my mom and my doctor,” she replied.
Bandaids for Mortal Wounds
While I may have read too much into her response, then again, maybe I didn’t. “My mom and my doctor.” I wondered, since she mentioned her doctor as part of her emotional support system, if she was referring to what the world calls a “mental health record.” That saddened me, too.
Without Christ, all people have, particularly in the area of “mental health,” are bandaids for mortal wounds. The wisdom of the world can never and will never bring about the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:8).
“Therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden” (Isaiah 29:14).
“The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, so what wisdom is in them” (Jeremiah 8:9)?
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
I asked Carol if it would be all right if I gave her a hug. With a nod of her head, she put her arms around me and sobbed on my shoulder for what seemed like a minute or two.
I explained to Carol that I would do as much as I could during what remained of the day and that I would be back early the next morning to finish the work. I also said, “If you would like, maybe some evening you can join me, my wife, and my daughter for dinner. We would love to have you over, enjoy your company, and be your friends.”
I told Carol that when I came back the following day I would leave all of mine and my wife’s contact information for her.
Lawn Care is a Younger Man’s Game
Carol left for an appointment and I got to work on her yard.
Three hours later, as the sun sank below the horizon, 15 full yard waste bags were lined up along the curb, in front of her house. And I wasn’t finished with the front yard. I had yet to see the backyard. So, I knew I would have my work cut out for me the following day. I figured I had another few hours of work ahead of me.
I was wrong.
7:30 the next morning, I was back at Carol’s house, with more equipment. It was a bright, sunny, crisp morning. Temperatures were in the low to mid 30s.
By the time I finished the front yard, which included raking leaves, trimming, edging, and mowing, 19 bags were now along the curb. Then, it was time to tackle the backyard.
The moment I stepped into the backyard I knew I would be there for most of the day. I filled three yard waste bags full of leaves. That effort cleared just a small corner of the backyard.
As I worked to clear the leaves, it soon became apparent that the yard hadn’t been touched in at least a year. While I was still hopeful to finish the yard before the sun went down on another day, I knew I had my work cut out for me.
God was very kind to this old man. And his providence was both sweet and amazing.
It was Wednesday, which is the day the city picks up trash, recycling, and yard waste. I knew if I didn’t finish the work before crews came down the street to pick up yard waste that I could just put any remaining bags alongside Carol’s house until they could be picked up the following week. But I really wanted Carol to come home (I assumed she was at work) to nothing but a clean yard.
As I worked in the back yard, I listened for the rumble of a large trash truck coming down the street. It never came. For a moment, I thought, “What if they don’t come today, with tomorrow being Thanksgiving? I can’t leave all those bags on the curb, for another week!”
I took a break for lunch. Sitting down was easy. Getting back up, not so much. I was feeling every bit of my almost 60 years.
I returned to Carol’s house. As progress was made, I began to see glimmers of a light at the end of the tunnel. By 3:30 PM, I was finished.
When all was said and done (raking, bagging, trimming, edging, mowing, blowing, sweeping), after ten hours over two days, 40 full bags of yard waste lined the curb.
I left copies of “Take Up the Shield” and “Running Beyond Inspiration” (both containing the gospel), along with two of my business cards, as well as Mahria’s contact information, on a small table next to her front door.
Before heading to church that evening, I took Roxy on another walk. As I approached Carol’s house, I noticed that her front door was open. I could tell that someone was standing in the doorway. There was a car parked in front of her house. She had a guest.
As I walked by, I could see that the books were no longer on the table next to the front door. Carol had received the gospel. Praise God.
Later that evening, I received the following text from Carol:
“Hi Tony, this is Carol. I just wanted to thank you so much for all the work you put into my yard, the best it’s looked all year! I look forward to reading the books, thank you again for everything! Have a nice evening and I hope you get to spend time with your family tomorrow.”
Pray for Carol. Pray after reading the gospel she comes to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. And pray that my family and I could be new friends for her–maybe even her best friends.
All for the glory of God.